Teaching 9 year olds about Social Media

This week, Fair Chance Foundation hosted its annual Impact Day. This is when every Deloitte employee around the world gets to trade 8 hours of regular work to volunteer in the community. In the Netherlands, we hosted Impact Day on Wednesday, 28th September. We facilitated 38 educational projects with a reach of over 2000 students. All made possible by more than 400 Deloitte employees and excellent community partners. Click here for an impression of the day.

I visited 3 projects on Impact Day, but I have only one favourite and admittedly it’s a project which I wrote about in August. Linda Vonhoff and Thijs van de Reep of Social MediaWijs hosted a social media boot camp for 9 and 10 year olds along with my social media colleagues, Roos van Vugt and Jochem Koole and an enthusiast from our recruiting department, Berend Buitink. The boot camp teaches young kids all the fun things that they can do with social media and the internet as well as highlighting some of the evils.

The primary school, at which this social media boot camp was held, is situated in a less privileged neighbourhood of Amsterdam. The kids that attend the school don’t all own computers at home and they were absolutely thrilled to be able to use an ipad ‘of their own’ for the morning.

What an experience! A classroom full of extremely eager children, learning about the use of Twitter, Facebook, Hyves, Google and YouTube. With funny animal films and Mr. Bean being the hit of the day! The children not only learned about the good, but also about the ugly on social media sites; that not everyone on the web is good and honest and not everything you read is true.

Congrats to Apple though! Ipad is so totally intuitive that the kids all breezed through the lesson with absolutely no problems at all. Some of the kids quickly realized that it wasn’t even necessary to search for a site through Google since the Apps were available on the homepage.

When I was growing up, I never paid much notice to the neighbourhood that we lived in, the schools that I attended or the ‘other things’ that I probably took for granted. It’s my guess, that these kids don’t either. And, let’s face it, you don’t need ‘things’ to be a really bright kid. And, each and every child in that classroom was an absolute gem.

Thijs and Linda are back at the school next week to run through the next module, I have a feeling that the atmosphere may be slightly more subdued since the lessons are sans Apple. However, I’m sure the content will keep them mesmerized. If you want to learn more about Thijs and Linda’s techniques, please contact them through twitter or through their website www.socialmediawijs.nl. Although their program is in Dutch, I’m sure they’d be thrilled to roll it out in English for you.

Many, many thanks go to Anne-Marie de Jeu, the Manager of Fair Chance Foundation. What a project manager!  Due to her total professionalism, Impact Day 2011 was an enormous success again this year. Thank you!

The ‘profit’ in non-profit

This week I met with one of my peers from a global company based in the Netherlands. She’s been running a community involvement program for the past 5 years and wanted to gain some insights from me as to how we run the Fair Chance Foundation. I was flattered that she’d reached out to me and also thrilled to be able to share knowledge and where possible best practice. Especially since our Foundation has only been around for a year, having launched in September 2010. We parted having shared many stories, some frustrations and numerous highs and lows. In view of this meeting, I’d like to share with you some of my views on how profitable organisations can remain profitable, whilst helping charitable third parties to greater new heights.

During the past year, it has become more and more clear to me that Community Investment and Involvement (CI&I) cannot be seen as something that is separate from the company strategy. Any business strategy includes brand, people and clients and CI&I is no different. What the past year has also taught me is that non-profit activities which businesses invest their time and resources in, are allowed to be ‘profitable’ in the perception of the business, whilst still benefiting the non-profit third parties. When a smart CI&I strategy is defined it will be beneficial for all parties!

Let me explain my thought process and let me use the Fair Chance Foundation in the Netherlands as my example. Fair Chance Foundation is financed by Deloitte and focuses on improving education of underprivileged children (age 6 – 18), predominantly in the Netherlands. We partner with well-known charitable third parties and invest resources (money), time (hours of our consultants) and expertise (knowledge of our employees) to ensure that we have the most impact. We don’t want to ‘window dress’ and buy a clear conscience. We want to really be involved with projects at grass roots level, with our own people.

What I see happening is the following. More and more young talents want to work for companies that invest in the community and students, are now looking at Deloitte as an employer of choice. Clients that hear about our foundation are suitably impressed. A client CEO said, that consultants who are involved in the community, are better at what they do, since they really understand the drivers and limitations of the economy. And, better client relationships, lead to better business and improved brand perception.

But, I’m driven by new ideas and what we’re not doing….so my thought process goes even further than the above.

WIN 1 – Training & development: By working far closer with HR, training and talent, exciting training and development programs can be developed that speak to the learning needs of our talents and professionals, while they are giving something back to the community. So, where CI&I is often seen as a cost, we start turning it around as a long term learning benefit for our talents and professionals.

WIN 2 – Improving client relationships: My next trick is that we include our clients. Not all of our clients run foundations or do they have the time or resources to get suitably involved in the community. However, they would like to become involved. By opening up the doors to our company CI&I program, we can send our own talents and professionals on a community involvement learning journey along with their clients so that they can use the time, not only to learn, but also to forge relationships with their clients. This blows the idea out of the water that CI&I is a waste of time and money. Since when was client face-time a waste of time and money?

WIN 3 – Creating brand ambassadors: I’m often amused to hear how many of my colleagues tell me that they get involved in the community with the idea that they have a lot to teach, however, they come away having learnt so much more. These colleagues are positive, motivated and excited and brilliant brand ambassadors for any company.

WIN 4 – Improving the economy by helping NGOs: Charitable third parties are helped with knowledge and expertise that they may otherwise not have been able to afford. In the case of Fair Chance Foundation, we’ve developed financial literacy programs that we implement in schools by training-the-trainer (the teacher) or by giving lessons in interview skills training, entrepreneurship, etc. Topics that are close to our core business and therefore, easier to teach. My view is that the more we invest in education, the more of a virtuous circle that we create. If more children stay in school longer and get a better education, they will not knock on the doors of social welfare (where available) or be dependent on their families. Instead, they will have enough entrepreneurial skills to start their own businesses or the right education to find work. And when more people work, the economy becomes better, which is automatically better for business.

So Community Investment and Involvement (CI&I) is positive for the brand, talent and leadership development and for improving client relationships. Don’t get involved if you want to make a fast buck. But if you’re in it for the long run, the spin-offs are extremely ‘profitable’ for your business but even more so for the NGOs that you help.

I’m getting off my soap-box now. Food for thought…….. I certainly hope so. I look forward to hearing your opinions on this subject!

Who cares?

William Gardiner, homeopath, outside his botanical dispensary with his extended family. Care of Glen Gordon, my recently found extended family in New Zealand.
William Gardiner, herbalist, outside his botanical dispensary with his extended family. Care of Glen Gordon, my recently found extended family in New Zealand.
My Great great grandfather, William Gardiner.
My great-great grandfather, William Gardiner









My great-great grandfather, William Gardiner, was a herbalist in Scotland in the late 1800s. He owned botanical dispensary, not far from where my father was born.

Later my great grandfather, who had perhaps learned a few tricks from his father, ran a similar dispensary in Glasgow, albeit that he was not as practised as his father had been. The ‘shop’ was lit by gaslight and was rather dark. The walls behind the counter were lined with small wooden drawers filled with plants, herbs and spices in order to make the ‘potions and lotions’ of the day. My father and his sister were terrified to visit it as it was like stepping into the unknown. I can only imagine that the shop looked like something out of a Harry Potter film. I have vivid images of my great grandfather in a robe with white hair and a beard and resembling Richard Harris as Albus Dumbledore. However, knowing the men in my family he probably looked more like Mel Gibson in Braveheart, but unfortunately ladies, not quite as good looking.

I’m proud to say that my great-great grandfather’s daughter was smart enough to record his work. She had the common sense to realise that her father’s wealth of knowledge should be bound and published, and in 1904 “The working man’s guide to health by herbal remedies” was published; a book to be used long after my great-great grandfather had died. There is only one book that I know of in the family and it’s not in very good condition, given it has been used to treat patients through the ages. The book has been handed down from generation to generation through my family’s male lineage. So I’m not the book’s caretaker. That responsibility has been given to my brother and later will be his son’s.

Even today, medicine in all forms, whether homeopathic, alternative or traditional, is necessary in order to relieve pain or to save lives. While I was visiting Hope Village, an orphanage in Namibia, I met the CEO of the PharmAccess Foundation. It dedicates itself to the strengthening of health systems in sub-Saharan Africa with its ultimate goal to improve access to quality basic health care, including the treatment of HIV/AIDS. PharmAccess supports programs and offers services in the areas of healthcare insurance, workplace programs, health investments, health intelligence, etc.

Whereas common sense has meant that many patients have benefited from the knowledge in my great grandfather’s book, it’s the passion of employees of organisations like PharmAccess that help save lives today. Many more children in Africa would be born HIV positive and would not enjoy quality of life, were it not for the likes of PharmAccess. And, having seen for myself the work that they do, I can assure you, they do care!

Social Media for Dummies

As soon as you start living your dream, your dreams evolve.
I love technology and I would even go so far as to call myself a ‘techy’ where hardware is concerned. I don’t necessarily buy into all new hardware at first, but I’m certainly not a laggard either. The top drawer of my desk is a technology graveyard of just about every mobile phone known to man, PDAs, first gen mp3 players, ipods through the ages and digital cameras. I just don’t have the heart to throw them away. I mean really, they all still work!

On the software side however, it’s less techy and more of a tetchy subject. I’m not going to beat around the bush, I’m a dummy. I used to be able to glide around Word, Excel and Powerpoint with ease. But, every time Microsoft proudly brings out a new improved version of their pallet of software, I have the feeling that my knowledge goes backwards an era. Does anyone else share this sinking feeling?

The social media that I ‘got’ immediately was Linked-in. I notice that I’ve been a member since 2004. I use it for business. It’s basically taken over the rolodex that I never had. I owned a beautiful burgundy leather business card holder, filled with cards. Which, come to think of it, has joined the mobile phones in my technology graveyard.

When Facebook was launched, all those years ago, I just couldn’t imagine why anybody would use it. Why would I want to store all my private family photographs on a website for everyone to see? A little confusion on my part between Facebook and Picasa. I’m now a major Facebook fan of course, given my family is strewn all over the world. I have family members and friends on just about every continent so Facebook has become my kitchen table; a warm and friendly meeting place that always brings a smile and very often raucous laughter with it.

Then Twitter hit the streets. In February 2010, I opened up a Twitter account and never used it. I thought, “Why would total strangers be interested  in what I’m doing? Crazy people. I’m certainly never adopting that one.” This year, Roos van Vugt, our social media guru at Deloitte, gave my colleagues and I Twitter training. Thanks Roos. I now actually feel like I know what I’m doing and, thanks to you, I learn so much from other users on Twitter every day. Someone told me recently that I tweet too much. Is up to 10 tweets a day a lot?  Let’s face it, we’re not talking glasses of wine here!

The internal version of Twitter is Yammer. Or at least, that’s the way that I see it. We use this platform for knowledge sharing at Deloitte. It cuts down on email and questions are answered so much faster than in the past.

WordPress took me about an hour to really understand and the rest of the day to create a blog site. In the end, I was just being fussy about aesthetics. Or, does it always take this ‘long’ to develop a site? Fortunately, I had someone at home who had done it all before and he guided me through the toolbars. I’m not really into ‘reading funky manuals’. I learn by doing. I suppose this is why I’m often so challenged by Social Media.

Having a lack of Social Media wisdom is fortunately not age related. I know this for a fact. Recently Fair Chance Foundation (Dutch) asked third parties to offer us educational projects, which we will support on our annual ‘Impact Day’. Impact Day offers every Deloitte employee the opportunity to take a day off from work to do charity work.

Roos retweeted my call for projects and Linda Vonhof and Thijs van de Reep from Social Media Wijs (Social Media Smart) approached me. They’ve developed a social media bootcamp to teach kids all the fun things that they can do and learn from it. In schools they focus too much on the evils of social media, putting the fear of death into many a school child. Very seldom are kids taught what they can actually do with social media. But then go figure, they’re being taught by school teachers who are probably as clueless as I am. And to be fair, technology just moves so fast and the teachers don’t have a Social Media team to come to their rescue. Social Media Wijs is running a bootcamp for Deloitte’s Fair Chance Foundation on Impact Day on 28 September 2011. This date may differ in other countries. For more information about what they are doing, they can be reached through Twitter.

My most recent Social Media faux pas was whilst I was attending a seminar in Brussels. I tweeted that a lady speaker from the BBC was giving a fascinating presentation about SM. A BBC colleague retweeted my message, setting the record straight and changed my abbreviation from SM to Soc.Med. Well, it is the British Broadcasting Corporation with an image to uphold. And yes, realising my mistake, I laughed out loud. I continually live and learn. You may however want to read the advice which Harvard Business Review offers on The Simple Way to Avoid Social Media Failures.

PS. Google+ is still giving me nightmares. Circles. Yes, I am pretty much going around in circles and sparks are definitely flying. But, the sparks are probably coming from that part of my brain where the cogs go round and round. Help…….Roos!!